Birth control prices to increase at McKinley

Photo Illustration by Beck Diefenbach Beck Diefenbach

Photo Illustration by Beck Diefenbach Beck Diefenbach

By Megan McNamara

About 39 percent of undergraduate women use oral contraceptives, according to the American College Health Association. Up until recently, they received them at discounted rates.

However, a new Medicaid rebate law has ended incentives for drug companies to sell oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, to colleges at discounted rates.

“Drug companies’ profits would go way down now in selling to us, so they eliminated us from their discount plan,” said Dr. David Lawrance, director of McKinley Health Center. “The pharmaceutical companies didn’t tell anybody this was coming until November 2006, and it came into effect in January 2007.”

Students nationwide have been affected by this change, with some paying up to three times the amount they were paying before, according to

The steep increase in birth control costs at student health centers has not yet affected prices at McKinley.

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“We purchased ahead, before the law went into effect, which will help keep costs down,” Lawrance said. “However, we couldn’t stockpile too much, because of expiration dates,” he added.

While prices should not be affected this summer, McKinley expects prices to increase sometime this fall, when they run out of cheaper birth control purchased before January.

“We have not been able to totally counteract the increase in birth control pricing,” Lawrance said. “McKinley already put in the budget proposal for 2008, before we heard about the increase in birth control costs.”

The budget proposal has already been sent to the Board of Trustees to vote on, so the increase in birth control costs will not be a factor they can take into account when voting on how to allocate student health fees.

McKinley’s entire budget comes from student health fees, Lawrance said.

“If we go over budget, we have a problem,” he said.

McKinley will have to charge students more for birth control to avoid going over budget.

Other organizations such as Planned Parenthood will not be affected by the new law.

“As a national organization, we have been able to create a preferred pricing agreement on most of our birth control products,” said Jessica Kuzemsky, director of public relations and volunteer management for Planned Parenthood of Champaign.

Planned Parenthood qualifies for discounts through the National Family Planning Program, a government program that provides funding to family planning agencies.

“Most of what we offer we were able to purchase at a discounted price that we can then pass on to our patients,” Kuzemsky said.

At McKinley, administrators “understand students are cost-conscious and are trying to be cognizant of that,” Lawrance said. “We are encouraging students to shift to something more affordable, to change to a different brand to save money,”

“This is an issue that is affecting health care services around the country and we are looking at all aspects of the problem and trying to determine the best alternative for students,” said Bethany Schmidt, senior in LAS and co-chair of the McKinley Student Advisory Board, in an e-mail.

Click here to visit the Web site of McKinley’s Women’s Health Clinic.